Declaration of the duties and rights of journalists, adopted by the Swiss Federation of Journalists on 17 June 1972 in Bern and partially revised on 16 September 1994 in Zurich.
The right to information, to free speech and criticism is one of the basic human rights.
The duties and rights of journalists derive from the public’s right to know facts and opinions.
The responsibility of journalists towards the public has priority over any other responsibility, particularly the responsibility to their employers and the state organs.
When fulfilling their information task, the journalists adopt of their own free will certain rules they intend to observe; these rules are formulated in the following “Declaration of duties”.
However, these duties can only be fulfilled if the necessary preconditions for the journalists’ independence and the dignity of their profession are given; they are the subject of the following “Declaration of rights”.
Declaration of Duties
Gathering, editing and commenting on information, all journalists consider the following duties to be the most important:
1) They follow the truth regardless of the consequences arising from it, and they show full respect for the right of the public to know the truth;
2) They defend freedom of information and all the rights derived from this freedom, viz., the right to comment and criticism, as well as independence and the dignity of their profession;
3) They publish only such information, documents and pictures, the sources of which are known to them. They don’t suppress any information or important elements of information, nor do they distort any text, document or picture. They clearly mark unconfirmed announcements as such and mention photographic montages. They respect reasonable deadlines;
4) They do not practice dishonest means in obtaining information, pictures or documents. They do not manipulate or use manipulated pictures in order to give distorted views. They do not exercise plagiarism;
5) They correct every news item they have published if its content proves to be partially or fully false;
6) They keep the professional secrecy and do not reveal the sources of confidential information;
7) They respect the privacy of the individual unless public interest requires the contrary. They refrain from all anonymous and unfounded accusations;
8 ) They do not accept any advantages or promises, which are liable to limit their professional independence and to curb the freedom to express their own opinions;
9) As professional journalists they avoid any form of commercial publicity and do not accept any conditions on the part of the advertisers;
10) They accept journalistic instructions only from the responsible members of their editorial staff and accept them only if they are not contrast with the present declaration of the journalistic duties.
Every journalist worthy of this name considers it to be his/ her duty to faithfully adhere to the principles of the present declaration. While recognizing the existing laws of every country, in professional matters he/she adopts the opinion of the colleagues only. He/she particularly refuses any interference by the state or any other authority.
Declaration of the rights
In order to fulfill all the assumed duties, journalists must at least have the following rights:
a) To have free access to all sources of information, and to be free to publish all facts of public interest; a journalist can be directed to withhold public or secret information or private affairs only exceptionally.
b) A journalist must not be forced to do something or express any opinion that might be in contradiction with the principles of the profession or his/her conscience. He/she should not encounter any harm by virtue of his/her refusal;
c) A journalist can refuse every instruction and any interference that are in contradiction with the general policy of their publishing company. He/she must be informed of this general policy in writing before taking up employment; a one-sided alteration or revocation of that policy is inadmissible and represents a breach of the contract;
d) Before any important decision that could influence the run of the company, journalist must be consulted as a member of the editorial staff. The members of the editorial staff must be consulted particularly before a definite decision is made concerning any measures that result in changes in the editorial staff or the whole organisation;
e) A journalist is entitled to clear specification of the terms of work in a collective contract. In this document it must be expressly stated that he/she will incur no personal disadvantages due to activity in various trade union organizations;
f) A journalist is entitled to sign a personal contract with the employer, which will ensure material and moral security. In particular, a fair and adequate remuneration for his/her work, taking into account the position, responsibility and social standing should secure his/her economic independence.